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New Trends in Garden Design

Be a Garden Designer:  What do you need and what’s Trending?

Garden design is a competitive industry there is no doubt about that. ‘Great’ gardener designers are few and far between – they are the innovators, think of the greats from the past and present: Gertrude Jekyll through to Piet Oudolf. These designers came up with such inspirational designs that are so great that they impact on gardening trends globally throughout the decades.  They are the ones that come up with new trends - which other designers then usually slavishly follow. There is nothing wrong with that. There is also nothing wrong with being a garden designer competing mainly in the large pool of designers at the ‘budget’ end of design, because this is where the vast majority earn their living. Some work for housing developers coming up with designs to complement each new estate, others work in garden restoration or middle to high end gardens for upwardly mobile clients.  If you can consistently produce good designs that work well for the common needs of most households, there will be work for you. In order to do this though, you need very good basic horticultural skills – there is no point dreaming of being a garden designer and then not having the skills to back it up. Garden design is much more than producing pretty plans and planting lovely plants. The plans and the plants need to work for each of the gardens that your design – for the architecture, for the climate, for the soil conditions, for the size of the plot.

Today’s world is also switched on to ‘trends’ – what is trending today may be old school and forgotten in two years’ time. Every designer needs have knowledge of what is current and what may be trending next year – you need to constantly watch what is happening in the gardening world in order to remain current and to be competitive.

What’s Trending in the World of Gardening Today?

Smaller gardens: as building plots become smaller and smaller so does the garden that is obvious, but is it quite difficult to design a small garden that looks great but  still have all the functionality expected by your clients. Clever small designs include smaller species of plants: small trees, narrow (fastigiate) trees, fruiting plants in dwarf forms. There are new species – dwarf, semi-dwarf and even mini varieties of species (trees and shrubs) coming on the market every year. Keep up with these trends.

Locally grown plants: these plants are far more likely to have adapted to local conditions and also therefore adapt better upon planting, it is also a great way to stop introduction of disease.  

Grassy and grass like plants: there is a plethora of attractive grassy plants available now, they are a hot trend at the moment mainly because they are tough, drought resilient, easy to care for yet look great year round. They create movement and interest in any garden and are available in small to large species.

Herb and vegetable gardens: the renewed interest in growing your own is one of today’s hottest trends; the trick is to fit them in with the small garden trend. These sorts of garden additions can be in the form of above ground beds or pots, hanging baskets, vertical food walls and so on. There is space for a food garden, in even the smallest space. Check out the latest ideas and include these in your garden designs.

Using vertical garden spaces: as mentioned earlier vertical spaces are great ways to extend a garden and also to add privacy for a balcony or terrace or patio. There are many ways to approach vertical gardens from pre-fab systems through to growing on simple lattice – this is also a growing trend that a garden designer should be aware of and consider for their clients.

Natural pest control and biodiverse plantings: along with interest in vegetable and herbs gardens is the trend towards natural gardening; gardens that have low health problems and require no chemical inputs. This is where plant knowledge is the key; choosing species that suit the climatic and soil conditions over what may seem more romantic in planting design. It is never prudent nor is it sustainable to try and change the conditions to suit the plant rather than choosing the plant to suit the conditions. The way to minimise disease and pest problems is by creating a biodiverse landscape. Even the smallest gardens can be made up of several, or many, appropriately selected species. Use planting schemes that create biodiversity in order to attract insects (good and bad), pollinators and predators (‘good’ insects that feed on ‘bad’ ones) to produce a healthier garden. 

Locally indigenous plants: these are plants have adapted to local conditions over decades or even centuries. Not to be confused with the term ‘native plants’ which may include plants native to a country but from a diversely different environment. This is especially so for countries that may include several climatic zones:  cool, temperate through to sub- tropical, tropical, arid conditions and Mediterranean – plants species will obviously vary as to their adaptability depending on the zone they are native to.

Resilient and locally grown plants: This includes plants that are locally grown but not necessarily indigenous to that area. For example they may be tough, drought and disease resistant, cold or heat tolerant and proven to perform well in your area. People want these types of plants in their gardens now – not many people have the patience to deal with plants that will struggle to perform. This trend is also an off-shoot of the ‘low food miles’ way of thinking; buying plants that are locally grown lowers the amount of energy it takes to get them from ‘a’ to ‘b’. This is a sustainable way to source both plants and food and is also trending highly within the public psyche at the moment. 

Year round interest: to make the designers job just that bit harder!  This is another trend that has come about mainly because of the move towards smaller gardens clients; don’t want to put up with seasonal plants that may die-back and leave blank spaces, they just want their gardens to look great year-round. This is another area where you horticultural knowledge, knowledge of what is locally available and your research skills come in to play.

Manageable gardens

There is no point in producing a great design if your clients have no way of knowing how to manage them.  These sorts of gardens become unruly and unmanageable – unfortunately the designer can gain a bad reputation even if they have produced a great design.

Garden education

The trend to online learning for backyard gardeners is an off-shoot of the grow-your-own movement many people want more knowledge; how to manage their gardens and gardening in general.  Online learning is in the top 8 trends currently world-wide; the trend to garden designers as teachers is a much needed but under-utilised service. There is not a lot available in this field though – many courses are not set-up for the hobbyist. This is where we at ACS can help. We have developed a range of 20 hours courses and also eBooks aimed at just these types of learners – no tutoring required the courses are a full package and all fully automated. If you are interested in expanding your clients’ knowledge and give them the ability to maintain your garden designs in the long term, whilst at the same time improving your income during those quiet times, then we would be happy to discuss an affiliation with ACS.   

Do you want to know more?

Find out more about selling our courses here.

Or contact our Affiliate Managers:

Kate Gibson is based in Australia and can be contacted at or +61 (0)7 5562 1088

Jade Sciascia is based in the UK and can be contacted at or +44 (0)1384 442752

We look forward to hearing from you.



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